The Rifleman
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The Battle Within A Young Gun
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy

Chapter Twenty Three — Ready, Aim, Fire!

Practice went on as planned during the next few days. William Brighton practiced with the men and equipment to make sure everything was safe and in the best of condition. John Browning came to the range every day. He spoke with the public, along with the others, and took a few rifle orders while he was at it. Each day brought more interest and practice became more like a show. Members of the public took part in attempting the coin and card shots. The marshal would stop by several times a day and show off. This was some of the best public relations he ever had. John realized that the practice sessions had a good bit of value. He hoped that other towns would have similar facilities to gain this kind of exposure. He realized that they were going to need a good salesman to work along with the marksman when the demonstrations hit the road. He figured he could be at some of the larger events, but he and William had many other things to do at the factory.
On Friday, things were pretty well set. They used some shot glasses for the quick draw and toss as well as the copper coins. Most of the coins were given out to the onlookers and to the few who were able to hit one. Will was careful not to throw his arm out by giving others a chance to do the work, except when the marksmen were performing. Bat and Lucas had both mastered the sideways card trick at fifty feet. William Brighton discussed the possibility of his being part of the show with his boss and he was glad to give his approval. All John asked was that he didn’t show up the others and get any ideas about running away to join the circus! William assured him that he had no desire to resume his former career, but that since he was here and having so much fun, it was only natural that he should enjoy some recreational shooting. John knew better than to deny his right hand man such a pleasure.

Jack was in the crowd each day paying close attention to what everyone was up to. His original thought was to disrupt the event on Sunday by shooting some of the targets from afar. But as he contemplated that act, he realized there was going to be a large crowd and he didn’t want to hurt anyone. All he wanted to do was cause enough trouble to ruin the day and maybe the show’s future plans. It was also a good chance that there would be some people at the church as the show was scheduled for one hour after services were usually held. He studied other buildings nearby, but almost all of them had flat topped roofs or tile with nowhere to hide. The fact of the matter was there were just too many deputies and men with guns to try anything risky. His cold feet brought out the coward in him and he decided to think of something else.

As practice came to a close on Friday afternoon, Jack was still at the range trying to act natural. After all of this time, nobody ever as much said a word to him. He was intrigued by his ability to go unnoticed. He was also tired of sleeping out in the mountains. He decided to stay in town for the night, his camp and second horse would be alright. He left plenty of water and there was nobody around for the entire time he had been there.

Saturday was a day of rest. Bat, John, and William took part in setting up the show targets. Lucas rode out with Aubry to have a look at her ranch. Sam and Micah woke late and made their way to the show site after eating. Will and Ann decided to give Spirit and Flash a workout ride around the outskirts of town. The horses were anxious and wanted to run. As they went along the road they saw many groups of travelers heading toward town. It got downright crowded at some points. This made them decide to head up a side road into the foothills. It was a perfect day, cool and dry. They continued on until they came to a meadow. Ann packed a couple of sandwiches from a shop in town and surprised Will with a bottle of fine wine. They stayed there for over an hour entertained by the sounds of the wind in the trees. The horses grazed on what little thin winter grass was still poking up through the dry leaves and weeds. Flash was given to wandering and Spirit followed along as they got near the edge of the meadow. Finally, Ann looked up to see the horses meander into the trees. Will got up and walked briskly toward the horses.

Ann did also and walked a little behind him. They could no longer see the stallions and they were getting just a bit nervous.

Spirit was trained to return to Will’s whistle and when he didn’t come running he knew something was wrong. Ann thought she had seen Flash just off to the right into the trees and ran to catch him. Will was becoming more concerned and ran further ahead, still not able to see or hear Spirit. How could he be so stupid? Now, Will and Ann were split up and the horses could not be found. Will went further into the trees looking for hoof prints. This was ridiculous! He yelled out to Ann and she yelled back but was too far to understand what she said. For some reason, the horses took much different paths.

After what seemed like an eternity, Will thought he heard something and walked toward the noise. Off into the trees he saw Spirit’s tail whipping around. As he came upon him it was obvious that he was tied to a tree. He ran up close, then took his time before coming into the open to check on his horse. He didn’t see anyone and then he realized that he didn’t have his gun. The rifle was still in the holster on Spirit so he decided to make a move for it. He ran up to the horse and grabbed the rifle. He cocked the lever to find no bullets. Before he could turn around, he felt the pressure of a gun barrel in his back. It was Jack!

Will whirled around and tried to grab the gun, but Jack stepped back and pushed Will to the ground in the direction of his motion.

“That’s enough Fulton! Stay down or I’ll let you have it!”

“What on earth are you doing Jack? You won’t get away with this!”

“That’s what you think. There’s nobody around here but you and Ann. I followed you two out here the whole way. Everyone is concerned with the show in town. It will be hours before you’re missed.”

“When I get loose Jack, I’m going to make you pay!”

“Enough! Now roll over on your face and put your arms behind you in the air.” Jack tied Will up and gagged him, sitting him against a tree looking across at his horse.

“Now, I’ll go to find Ann. Then we can all take a ride into the hills. We can spend a lovely weekend together around a campfire. I’m sure there’s plenty of stories we can share!

“The glare in Fulton’s eyes gave Jack a shiver down his spine. He was bold enough to pull this desperate plan off, but he knew this would be it. He couldn’t allow either of them to get to him now. He ran off into the woods in the direction he had last heard Ann’s voice.

Will sat there helpless realizing the awful reality of his carelessness. If he didn’t get himself out of this predicament, the show would be over for good. He struggled and tried to roll around to free himself to no avail. Jack had lassoed too many calves to do a sloppy job with the rope. The gag was starting to hurt his jaw and he chewed at it as best he could. Finally, he managed to feel a sharp area on the bark of the tree. He rubbed his hands against it, working into the rope.
Ann soon realized that she was getting too far away and had still not caught up to Flash. The horses had been penned up for too long and were restless. Jack had no need to lure Flash away, he thought that once he had Will under wraps Ann would be less trouble to catch. She yelled out for Will several times, giving Jack better direction. Ann became suspicious when she got no reply and figured that maybe Jack was up to something. She decided it best to go after Flash rather than run into Jack. She changed her direction and did her best to look out for what might be coming behind her.

Back in town, Bat and the guys worked at the set up and took a few practice shots. It was starting to get late and thoughts of dinner took over. Lucas and Aubry were enjoying a family dinner at her ranch. Finally, Sam got to wondering where Will and Ann were. He knew they were going to take the horses out, but not for so long. Micah became immediately concerned. It was decided that they would take a ride out along the road to see what they could find. Bat told them that if they did not come back in half an hour that he and William would ride out in the same direction to join them. Lucas was too far away to be alerted at this point. Sam told Bat that he would tie his monogrammed handkerchief on a tree branch or fence if they went off the road.

Sam and Micah took off and tried to see if there were any familiar hoof prints on the road. By this time it was a lost cause, so many had been on the road. They went up and down the first several miles and found nothing. They decided to go a bit farther and Sam noticed the side road entrance that Will and Ann had taken. There were the hoof prints with the Bard Ranch mark on them. Sam was glad he thought of that long ago.

Sam got down and tied his handkerchief to a bush at the turn and they rode up to find the meadow. They found the wine bottle and other evidence that they had been on the grass as well as further tracks leading into the woods.

Ann made her way in what she hoped would be an unexpected path. She lost track of Flash’s hoof prints in the leaves on the ground between the trees. All she could hope for was that she could double back and try to help Will. She stopped by a large rock and kept quiet, listening for signs of Will or Jack. After a few minutes she heard footsteps in the leaves. Jack tried to move in quietly, but it just wasn’t possible. Ann looked into the trees and saw Jack approaching. She went quickly along an angle through the trees and out of sight from him. He tracked her steps to the rock and waited a few minutes to listen for her. After a short while of looking around, he decided that he better go back and take care of Fulton. Ann couldn’t do much harm and Will was enough to kidnap back to camp and disrupt the show.

Sam and Micah dismounted near the trees and began to follow the tracks. By this time, Bat and William were on their way. There was still some sunlight left, but not much. Sam found where the two horses took different directions. It was hard to want to split up at this point. They knew that the others would be along soon. They decided to go a short distance in both directions to get an idea of what may be going on.

Jack got back to Will and found him near breaking free. He untied his hands and feet and made him get on Spirit. He tied Will’s hands to the saddle and lead them up into the mountains towards his camp. Along the way Will kicked and prodded at Spirit to make him give Jack a bad time. This slowed things down to a crawl and Jack got mad.

“You better make that horse of yours behave Fulton or I’ll do away with him and you can make it on foot. You know, I’ve had just about enough from you as it is. I don’t know why I shouldn’t just blast you and be done with it. They’ll never find me. Ann is lost in the woods back there and she won’t have time to go back for help. You’re mine convict, all mine!”

Will worked at the rope until his wrists were bloody, there just wasn’t anything sharp that he could rub against. He was convinced of Jack’s cowardice way before this, so he decided to bide his time and wait for a chance to get away. Thirst set in and Jack got out his canteen for a swig. Will looked longingly at him so Jack eventually removed the gag, cautioning Will about making any noise. Will drank as much as he could as Jack held the canteen to his mouth, letting some of the water roll down his chin and onto the ground.

Bat and William found Sam and Micah’s horses and followed them into the woods. They hadn’t gone very far and so they formed two teams and followed both tracks. This was not easy and the light was fading. Ann was still hiking back in the direction of where she thought Will might be. She heard something off in the trees and thought it could be Flash.

Micah and Sam came upon the area where Jack and Will met. They could see two horses had been there and signs of a struggle. It was still very fresh and they decided to go back and get the others so they could work in the same direction. When they met, Bat told them that he could see where Ann must have gone off in their direction to find Flash and that maybe one of them should stay behind in case she came back. William agreed that he should stay. If they didn’t return in a half hour, William was to go back to town and get the marshal involved. The others rode off to track Jack and Will.

“He’s got a good head start on us Sam, we better be careful as we approach him. He can shoot down at us at any time.” Bat warned the others.
“We got ya Bat! With two lawmen along Jack has no chance!” Micah added. “Sam, I know you want him bad too, but let us stay in the lead”

“I agree boy’s he’s all yours for now. But if I get my hands on him it won’t be pretty!”

Bat took the lead and the three men followed the tracks into the mountains. They realized that there could be several hours of a head start and if they went too fast all they would do is give themselves away. It wasn’t wise to overwork the horses either. Bat had the most experience at tracking given that he was an army scout in his early days. He found several broken branches along the way that indicated a fresh trail. Sam reminded them to recognize the mark left by Spirit’s shoes. Will was evidently doing what he could to leave a track along the way.
“Look at how these hoof prints wander around too much. Will must be teasing Spirit to make him walk funny.” Bat said.

“And here’s some spit on the ground, they can’t be too far up ahead!” Micah replied.

“Okay men, let’s whisper from here on and keep a sharp eye up in those rocks above us.

Jack could take Will’s antics no more. He made him take the lead on Spirit and he kept his rifle trained on him as they went on. After a short distance, Jack noticed something on the hoof prints.

“Fulton, what is it with you? I can see the mark in the hoof prints. You knew we were leaving a trail the whole time! Stop right here. We’re going into those rocks. It will take longer, but it’ll be harder to find the prints. Jack got down and kicked the dirt around for a short distance back. He was satisfied that it was enough to stall and maybe send them off into a slightly different path. Will did his best to spit before they went on, but what he was really hoping for was that Spirit would have to relieve himself soon. Will asked Jack if he could have some more water and Jack told him to wait until they got up ahead. In a matter of minutes Jack could hear the lawmen’s horses as they approached the place where he messed up the tracks. He got down from his horse and made Will do the same, retying his hands once he was down. They had a better chance if they stayed low. Will took this opportunity to slip and fall, kicking some rocks downhill at the same time. Bat and Micah saw this right away. They lead their horses to the inside berm of the trail along some large boulders. Sam hung back while Bat moved slowly into the open to hike upwards.

Jack struggled with Will to a point where he could look down and defend his position.

He could see Bat on his way up. He told Will to keep still or die. His desire to not hurt anyone was all but gone now. His cowardice moved him into the lethal area of panic. He saw that Micah had now come out to cover Bat. Time was short, he would either have to abandon Will and run for it or shoot it out with two tough and determined lawmen. This was much more than he could handle in his mind. In desperation though, he decided to take a few shots and see if he could scare them off. The terrain was steep and rough and both men were older and in no shape to follow him uphill for long. Bat was sure he was close and pushed himself onwards. Micah was older and very slow, but he had his trusty rifle ready. Sam walked around behind the boulders and was slowly moving in from the side. Jack had no idea how many were in the group, it was time to act. He raised his rifle and drew aim on Bat. Bat could not see him yet and was wide open in slippery rocks.
The first shot of Jack’s missed Bat by only inches. He had nowhere to hide. He fell to the ground and stayed as flat as he could. Micah let off a shot in the general direction uphill, missing Jack but scaring his horse into running off. Will also let go of Spirit knowing it would be best. Jack knew he was in trouble now, he yelled out for the men to retreat or Will would die. Bat remained still and Micah yelled back,

“It’s too late Jack, we have you covered. Killing Will won’t save you!”
“You old codgers can’t chase me!” Jack shot again towards Micah. “Now get back!”

“You can’t run forever Jack, give up now and we’ll go easy on you. I know you hurt inside, don’t make it worse, think of your family!” Micah yelled.
“You’re crazy old man. My father doesn’t care what happens to me. All he cares about is his rotten failing ranch!” Jack let off another round towards Micah.
“We don’t want to hurt you Jack, now stop this right now!” Bat yelled out. “I’m going to go back downhill. We won’t try to come after you if you release Will.”
“Don’t move Masterson, I like you right where you are. Move again and I’ll kill you!”

Time was when Bat would have gotten up shooting and put an end to something like this. But this wasn’t one of those times. Killing was not his desire and he was not so able to move as he used to be. He knew he could wait Jack out and the larger group to come with the marshal would likely scare this boy into surrender. Jack became more nervous by the moment. He didn’t see Sam on his way up to a point above and to the side. Micah and Bat were not aware of his position. Jack waited for a few minutes to think over his next move. Finally, he yelled out.
“Okay Masterson, I’m going to let you go back. If you try anything at all, I’m going to kill Fulton. If I can see that you are going to let me go, you can come up here and have Fulton after I’m gone.”

Bat didn’t know to trust this offer. He moved his hand with the pistol down to his side. Jack let off another round just off to the same side. “Leave the gun where it is Masterson. I got plenty of ammo up here. Nobody gets to me, understand?”

“Yes, Jack, that I do.” Bat let go of the gun and gently slid backwards. He finally reached a point where he would have to sit up to go any further. Jack was very nervous as he watched him move. Just as Bat stood up at the bottom of the incline Jack heard a rock break loose off to his side. He whipped around to see Sam above him to his left.

“I told you guys not to try anything!” Jack whirled around to shoot Will. As he got to a point to do so a shot rang out and the rifle flew out of Jack’s hands. Jack made a move to get back to the rifle and another shot came out of nowhere to hit it again. Sam was in shock. He hadn’t fired a round. Bat had no gun and Micah was behind the boulders.

Jack dropped to the ground and tried to crawl towards his rifle. Will kicked at him but couldn’t get close enough. Jack was just about to reach his rifle and a third shot hit his right hand, splitting it between the first and second fingers. Jack jerked back his mangled hand and screamed in pain. A fourth shot hit the rifle again, sending it out of anyone’s reach. Sam looked in the direction of the shots but couldn’t see a thing. Bat heard Will yell out that Jack was hurt. Jack hadn’t yet thought about the pistol on his hip, he was too busy screaming in pain. Bat made a move to get his pistol back and saw that there would be no return fire. Micah stepped out to keep him covered as Bat made it to the top where the two men were on the ground. Jack was in no shape to shoot it out with anyone. Bat took his pistol and untied Will.

“That was a close one young Fulton, and as for you Jack, I feel as though you have a lot more embarrassing days ahead. It’s a good thing I didn’t have to spend more than this afternoon hunting you down. But I’ll be damned if I know who fired those shots!”

“I’m sure glad someone did!” Will replied. “That was some amazing shooting, whoever it was.” Will whistled and Spirit came trotting back. Bat got Jack to his feet and they all walked to where Micah was. When they returned there was a few minutes to wait for Sam to return from his perch. Will was very mad and wanted a piece of Jack. Bat held him back and Micah wrapped a cloth from his shirt around his hand.

“Well, I’d say it’s a good thing that Lucas wasn’t here. I don’t think he’d be as understanding as the rest of us. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it was him that fired those shots.” Micah declared. “If it wasn’t Brighton then I don’t know any others who could pull that kind of stunt!”

“I have not a clue Gentlemen. It must have been raining lead from heaven!” Bat replied.

“I’ll tell ya who it was. There could have only been one angel with a rifle!” Will nodded behind the men as Sam came around the boulders with a smirk on his face.
“Wasn’t me, I was frozen in my tracks.” Sam couldn’t contain the smile on his face as from behind came the angel.

“I told you not to make me mad Jack! You know what happens when you make me mad, don’t you!” Ann sauntered up to Jack and rubbed her knee along his leg. While he was watching her every move with great concern, hand throbbing and still bleeding, she motioned as if to kick and Jack flinched waving his hands wildly, screaming in pain once again.

This brought on a great round of laughter, except for Ann, who kept her eyes trained on Jack the entire time.

“I’ve never seen such an evil eye from an angelic face.” Bat broke the silence once the laughter ceased. “Let us laugh no more at this poor soul. He’ll suffer enough where he’s headed. Now, who was it that likes to use the word, Convict?”
Ann and Will embraced as never before. It was finally over and they could feel the release. “That’s my gal, the sharpshooter!” Will said as he let go from the kiss.

“You mean my little girl!” Sam added.

“Whoever she belongs to, she’s one hell of a shot!” Micah said. “But I wager Jack here has a few choice words to describe her, especially her knee!”
They couldn’t help but laugh again. As they rode down the hillside and into the meadow, they were greeted by Brighton who just returned with the marshal and three deputies. They questioned Jack and took him into custody. Two deputies were sent to find Jack’s camp and rescue his second horse. Jack was taken to a doctor to have his hand sewn back together. It was going to be a long time before he saw the likes of North Fork again. He was going to have plenty of bricks to make.

Battle Within A Young Gun - Chapter 24 — The Show Must Go On

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

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